Cliff I. Davidson

Research Professor

Civil and Environmental Engineering

335C Link Hall



  • Ph.D., Environmental Engineering Science, California Institute of Technology, 1977.
  • M.S., Environmental Engineering Science, California Institute of Technology, 1973.
  • B.S., Electrical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, 1972.

Lab/Center Affiliation(s):

  • Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems
  • Director, Center for Sustainable Engineering

Research Interests:

  • Environmental transport and fate of pollutants
  • Sources of airborne particles in urban and remote areas
  • Measurement and modeling of atmospheric dry and wet deposition of pollutants
  • Emission inventories for airborne lead
  • Emission inventories for airborne ammonia
  • Human perceptions of energy use from day-to-day activities
  • Assessment of performance of green infrastructure for stormwater management
  • Sustainable development in urban areas
  • Use of field measurements to promote STEM education

Current Research:

Davidson is currently studying the rapid changes in development of green infrastructure (GI) for stormwater management taking place in US urban areas. Examples of GI include green roofs, green walls, constructed wetlands, street trees, rain gardens, expansion of urban green space, and permeable pavement. One project involves the role of political, economic, and social factors that have enabled GI to be adopted at increasing rates in recent years. This project is examining the reasons why several US metro regions including Syracuse have accepted green infrastructure wholeheartedly, while other urban areas have decided against the use of GI, opting for conventional gray infrastructure such as holding tanks, larger pipes, and expanded treatment plants. A second project is examining the performance of GI projects in Syracuse, currently focusing on the Convention Center Green Roof. This project involves measuring the incoming precipitation, water storage in the growth medium and plants on the roof, rates of evaporation and evapotranspiration from the roof, and water flows in the drain pipes running from the roof into the combined sewer system. A third project is examining chemical contaminants in stormwater runoff, identifying the sources of those contaminants, and studying their eventual fate.

Courses Taught:

  • CEE 562 Air Resources I
  • ECS 650 Managing Sustainability: Purpose, Principles, and Practices
  • CEE 463/663 Introduction to Sustainable Engineering
  • Professional development workshops for faculty around the country on developing sustainability content for engineering courses


  • Fellow, Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, elected 2015
  • Fellow, American Association for Aerosol Research, elected 2008
  • United Methodist University Scholar-Teacher Award, Syracuse University 2014
  • William H. and Frances M. Ryan Award for Meritorious Teaching, Carnegie Mellon University, 2009.
  • 2009 Outstanding Paper Award, Literati Network Awards for Excellence, Emerald Group Publishing, for a paper in the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education that appeared in 2008.
  • Phillip Dowd Fellowship, College of Engineering, CMU, 2007.
  • Outstanding Educator Award, Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, 2007.
  • Charles Beyer Distinguished Lecturer, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Houston, 2006.
  • American Association for Aerosol Research, Service Award for serving as Co-Chair of the International Conference “Particulate Matter: Atmospheric Sciences, Exposure, and the Fourth Colloquium on PM and Human Health,” Pittsburgh, PA, April 1-4, 2003.
  • Jubilee Chair Professorship, Chalmers University, Gothenburg, Sweden, 1997-98.
  • Parsons ES/AEEP Award for serving as thesis advisor to the recipient of the 23rd Annual Doctoral Thesis Award, Parsons Engineering Science and Association of Environmental Engineering Professors, 1996.
  • Benjamin Richard Teare Award for Excellence in Engineering Education, Carnegie Mellon University, 1992.
  • Outstanding Professor of the Year Award, American Society of Civil Engineers, Pittsburgh Section, 1989.
  • Ralph R. Teetor Award given to young engineering educators with less than five years experience, Society of Automotive Engineers, 1982.
  • George Tallman Ladd Award for Outstanding Research, Carnegie Mellon University, 1980.
  • First Annual Lincoln T. Work Award, Fine Particle Society, August 1976.
  • Chosen by Carnegie Mellon University as the CMU nominee for “Outstanding Electrical Engineering Student in the U.S., 1972″, Sponsored by Eta Kappa Nu.

Select Publications:

Squier-Babcock, Mallory and Cliff I. Davidson, Hydrologic performance of an extensive green roof in Syracuse, NY, Water, Vol. 12, Number 6,, May 28, 2020.

Johnson, Alexander J. and Cliff I. Davidson, Measuring atmospheric dry deposition with large surrogate surfaces for improved time resolution, Atmospheric Environment, Vol. 198, Number 1, pages 489-495,, Feb. 2019.

Markolf, Samuel A., Mikhail V. Chester, Daniel A. Eisenberg, David M. Iwaniec, Benjamin L. Ruddell, Cliff I. Davidson, Rae Zimmerman, Thaddeus R. Miller, and Heejun Chang, Interdependent Infrastructure as Linked Social, Ecological, and Technological Systems (SETS) to Address Lock-In and Enhance Resilience, Earth’s Future, Vol. 6, Issue 12, pages 1638-1659,, December 2018.

Rosenzweig, Bernice R., Lauren McPhillips, Heejun Chang, Chingwen Cheng, Claire Welty, Marissa Matsler, David Iwaniec, and Cliff I. Davidson, Pluvial Flood Risk and Opportunities for Resilience, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water, Vol. 5, Issue 6,, July 2018.

Flynn, Carli D., Cliff I. Davidson, and Sharon Dotger, Development and psychometric testing of the Rate and Accumulation Concept Inventory, Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 107, Issue 3,, September 29, 2018.

Davidson, C.I., Brad R. Allenby, Liv M. Haselbach, Miriam Heller, and William E. Kelly, Educational materials on sustainable engineering: do we need a repository? Elementa, February 23, 2016, DOI10.12952/journal.elementa.000089.